Sex differences in mental abilities: g masks the dimensions on which they lie.

Wendy Johnson, Thomas J. Bouchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Empirical data suggest that there is at most a very small sex difference in general mental ability, but men clearly perform better on visuospatial tasks while women clearly perform better on tests of verbal usage and perceptual speed. In this study, we integrated these overall findings with predictions based on the Verbal-Perceptual-Rotation (VPR) model ([Johnson, W., and Bouchard, T. J. (2005a). Constructive replication of the visual-perceptual-image rotation (VPR) model in Thurstone's (1941) battery of 60 tests of mental ability. Intelligence, 33, 417-430.; Johnson, W., and Bouchard, T. J. (2005b). The structure of human intelligence: It's verbal, perceptual, and image rotation (VPR), not fluid and crystallized. Intelligence, 33. 393-416.]) of the structure of mental abilities. We examined the structure of abilities after removing the effects of general intelligence, identifying three underlying dimensions termed rotation-verbal, focus-diffusion, and memory. Substantial sex differences appeared to lie along all three dimensions, with men more likely to be positioned towards the rotation and focus poles of those dimensions, and women displaying generally greater memory. At the level of specific ability tests, there were greater sex differences in residual than full test scores, providing evidence that general intelligence serves as an all-purpose problem solving ability that masks sex differences in more specialized abilities. The residual ability factors we identified showed strong genetic influences comparable to those for full abilities, indicating that the residual abilities have some basis in brain structure and function. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-39
Number of pages17
JournalIntelligence
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords

  • sex differences
  • residual mental abilities
  • verbal and spatial abilities
  • general intelligence
  • VPR theory
  • genetic and environmental influences
  • GENDER DIFFERENCES
  • MEASUREMENT INVARIANCE
  • FACTORIAL INVARIANCE
  • PROGRESSIVE MATRICES
  • COGNITIVE-ABILITIES
  • SPATIAL ABILITIES
  • INTELLIGENCE
  • BRAIN
  • METAANALYSIS
  • ROTATION

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